S022586 Reviews

S022586 My Armenia

FANFARE January/February 1999 Page 283 by Henry Fogel

ELVIRA UZUNIAN: MY ARMENIA- Armenian Alias and Songs
Elvira Uzunian (sop): various orchestral and instrumental accompaniments
SONORA S022586CD, analog: from Russian radio broadcasts 1969-1985 (71:42 CD)
Song and arias by Tigranian, Ter-Gevordian, Satian, Kotoyan, Abramian, Ayvazian, and Armenian Folksongs

This is a lovely recording - one that anyone interested in exploring unusual vocal repertoire should investigate. Elvira Uzunian, the accompanying biography tells us, was the leading soprano of the Armenian State Opera House for a 30-year period beginning in 1963, and if this disc is an indication of her abilities it is unfortunate that she didn't sing much in the West (except for touring with her company). Her voice is what we have identified as typically Eastern, tightly focused and bright in timbre. It does, though, include a pleasant and relatively quick vibrato that never threatens to turn into a wobble, and that prevents it from sounding strident. The top is free and open, and she sings with commitment, energy, and a natural sense of phrasing. What might keep her from the very top rank is that she doesn't seem able to vary the color a great deal; but still this is lovely lyric-soprano singing that brings much pleasure.

The repertoire will be largely unfamiliar to most non-Armenians, I imagine--although she does sing two arias from Armen Tigranian's Anush, an attractive opera once available on Westminster LPs. There is a certain similarity over the span of almost 72 minutes, which is natural when the music is all based on one folk tradition. The operatic selections are clearly sprung from the same musical aesthetic as the folk songs, an ethereal, sensuous Eastern musical style of remarkable beauty. The prevailing mood is tender and languid, rather than excitable or energetic. I never tired of listening to it all the way through, but if you do there is no rule saying that you can't listen to part of it at any one sitting. It is too lovely to pass up.

The operatic arias are accompanied by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, well led by Vadim Shubladze. The songs are accompanied tastefully by an orchestra of Russian folk instruments, with a variety of conductors (Sonora does not tell us which conductor directs which piece). All of the accompaniments seem sympathetic and better than routine. Despite variations, which are not surprising given the span of time over which these broadcasts took place, the recorded sound is fine. With the voice generally somewhat forward, but not offensively so. Some of the older tracks are a bit muffled in comparison with the majority, but it isn't a major problem. Sonora provides a fine English-language booklet, with informative notes on Armenian music in general, a description of each of the operas, words about each composer, and full English translations (but no Armenian texts).

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